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on June 9, 2004
We're approaching the 100th anniversary of the action in Ulysses and I've taken my copy out and began to reread it. No other book I know of has more power to inspire or instill creative thought. His symbolism and skill is simply astounding. Anthony Burgess once said that many times he'd think of Ulysses and then think about his own work, "Why bother?" I know what he meant, but the power of the characters and style gives everday writers like myself something to strive for. This book is worth more than ten creative writing courses in the Ivy League. Even if I wanted to, I could never forget it.
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I bought the Ulysses (Gabler Edition) edition of this book recently as we were reading Ulysses as part of an online book club. The advantage of that edition is that it is popular edition and also has line numberings so that as part of a group you can immediately locate a piece of text.

Joyce edited and added bits and pieces to the text over the years much to the chagrin and frustration of his publishers, so you can expect minor variations between editions, yet they may be 95-99% similar.

"Ineluctable modality of the visible."

There are certain passages that no dictionary will help you with, and that is why you may need a companion book, such as Ulysses annotated, which explains the many allusions, whether to Latin, parallels with the Bible, with the Odyssey which this story loosely parallels, to Latin, British Rule, historical context, local maps, Hamlet, mythical search for the missing father, Shakespeare and the Bible.

The further you get into this book the better it gets.

At once this book is inpiring yet challenging, sometimes perplexing yet ultimately rewarding. Full of inventive wordplay that sometimes defies instant comprehension. I have read entire pages that turn out to be word salad at first. Every chapter has a different narrative style, such as inner monologue, narcissistic, catechism, stream of consciousness. Sometimes this book is brutal to read, sometimes a joy. I can understand why this book is so influential, and the words nibble at the edge of your consciousness forcing your mind to expand itself. This book has changed the way I think about writing, as I have never seen som many different narrative devices used in a single book before. The final chapter with Molly Bloom in bed, with its runon sentences is simply hilarious.

And if you search you can find free online chapter summaries of chapters to speed your comprehension.

I hope you found this review helpful.
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on July 19, 2004
I wrote this review previously w/ my other Amazon account but now that I changed email addresses, I'm going to publish this review in this account
Ulysses is considered by me to be the greatest book ever written. Now the following review is just the very basic storyline, in order to even begin to fathom the magnitude of it's magnificence, you need to read the other reviews and so here it is. It describes in florid detail a single day in the life of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly and Stephen Dedalus, a young would-be-writer -- a character based on Joyce himself. Bloom, a Jewish advertising salesman, spends the day wandering through the streets and offices, pubs and brothels of 1904 Dublin
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on June 25, 2004
This is certainly one of the most important audiobook performances available. Whether you have already read this masterpiece or you are beginning to study it, you will gain immeasurably from these narrators' idiomatic diction and narrative fluency. They bring the book alive and impart a level of clarity and coherent understanding that offsets the reader's tendency to get bogged down in details. No matter where you are coming from in relation to Ulysses, this reading will dramatically increase your appreciation for it.
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on March 13, 2006
If you’re looking for a modern page-turner, a la “Da Vinci Code” by Brown or “Katzenjammer” by J. McCrae, then look someplace else. This is NOT it. ULYSSES is a classic in the same way that Proust’s work is, but easy to read? Don’t think so. It is worth your time trying to get through this tome, the same way it is with “Atlas Shrugged” or other classics that take a bit of getting used to. Most readers probably won't be able to approach this famous novel without some outside aid, but don't let that deter you. I've read parts of it many times and still haven't any idea what the central theme is supposed to be, yet it remains a fascinating work. The book is less about plot and character as it is about the creative use of language - stream-of-consciousness, changing narrators, parodies and other rhetorical devices are some of the techniques Joyce uses to the fullest. This is one of those rare books that can be read over and over and something new understood each time. For that alone, I recommend this to curious readers.
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on December 6, 2003
Brilliant book, a web of words encompassing centuries of literature and philosophy and its impasse on the overeducated lower middle class, a perfect allusion to a work of great literature (The Odyssey) that this book has matched well. Perhaps this is the first book to transcend the ability of what it has parodied. To those who have denied recommending it to someone of sixteen or seventeen, I had been upon this earth for a decade and a half when I came upon it, and just reread it one year later. Granted, you need a Latin dictionary and a good book of annotations to thoroughly understand it, but this book has made me realize just what a waste my public rural high school education was--Ulysses is literary heaven and hell and propagator of autodidacticism and eschews all principles of what has ever been said to create this century's magnum opus. I am exactly one-hundred years younger than James Joyce (and Stephen Daedalus), and on the sixteenth of June in 2004 I plan to! take the route of Leopold Bloom to vicariously relive it. One thing to be forewarned about: it is highly addictive. I have developed Ulysses codependency, as will anyone who gets through it. My head aches after reading it, for it is the best kind of masterpiece, the kind that attacks physically and intellectually at once. It is vulgar, carnal, and base (for its time, that is) and at once completely holy and pure because it has allowed the world to start over. Joyce is the avant-garde. He is our master philosopher and psychiatrist, who wrote the book that will never be shredded.
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on December 9, 2015
Joyce was 40 yrs old when Ulysses was published, it is a day in the life of a husband and father of Joyce's age (at publication). Joyce loved Dublin and Ireland and though the book was written on the European continent - he wanted to memorialize his birth home (Ireland). The framework of Ulysses is Homer's Odyssey - The Roman (Ulysses) is the translation of the Greek (Odyssey): 1 Telemachus, 2 Nestor, 3 Proteus, 4 Calypso, 5 Lotus Eaters, 6 Hades, 7 Aeolus, 8 Lestrygonians, 9 Scylla And Charybdis, 10 Wandering Rocks, 11 Sirens, 12 Cyclops, 13 Nausicca, 14 Oxen Of The Sun, 15 Circe, 16 Eumaeus, 17 Ithaca, and 18 Penelope.

Ulysses is the tale of a Modern-day Odysseus, Leopold Bloom in his personal existential/sexual quest. The conclusion of this quest is the quintessential affirmation of humanity, the fundamental family unit - the father, mother, son, and daughter. Like Odysseus, absent from Penelope, traveling the world, for many long years, Leopold Bloom is also absent from his Penelope (in Dublin). Like a traveler (Odysseus), Bloom is sexually absent (abstinent) from Molly “10 years, 5 months and 18 days” (736). Unlike Odysseus, the obstacles Bloom faces are psychological (modern) - internal travails instead of Odysseus' external travails. Bloom's only son’s death has become a psychological barrier; as Molly reflects: “we were never the same since” (778). Yet Bloom is optimistic throughout the work - in regard to the possibility of another child, again Molly: ”Ill give him one more chance” (780). Affirmatively (as we grow to know Molly) we find she has given and is willing to continue to give Bloom “one more chance”. Through the course of the (Dublin) day, Bloom experiences “deep frustration, humiliation, fear, punishment and catharsis” (Herring, p.74). Bloom needs to lead himself back, out of self-deception, fantasy, and frustration to Molly’s (and his marriage) bed.

Bloom’s travails come in the Circe chapter (Odyssey) and it is imperative (for Joyce) that as readers, we recognize Joyce’s change from Homer's Odyssey - this is Joyce's major rework, deviating from his Greek predecessor. For Odysseus: insight, understanding, enlightenment, and all importantly direction come to Odysseus in his journey to the (ancient Greek) Underworld. For Bloom, the Hades chapter (Odyssey) or “the other world” represents an “emptiness of mind” (in Ulysses); Joyce was a man grounded (and devoted) to the present world of man's consciousness and unconsciousness. In Ulysses enlightenment comes in the Circe chapter, described though the Joycean technique of hallucination or the discoveries of the "unconscious mind”. Joyce's Circe chapter (a surrealistic one-act Ibsen-like play) is where Bloom finds self-possession - (Joyce makes) Bloom encounter his own psycho-sexual existential questions, rather than finding life's answers in the dead ghosts of his life (the ancient Greek Hades chapter of the dead past).

Joyce equanimously gives both Molly and Bloom extramarital sexual infidelities - infidelities known by each of the other. As early as the Calypso chapter (Odyssey), Bloom was conscious of what was to come. Of course there will be resolution in marriage, for Molly only needs to feel that Bloom is willing. As we read, Bloom has undergone the travails of his own mind and has emerged Victorious. He has succeeded in his psycho-sexual existential quest. He has arrived at Molly’s bed. Self-possessed. Victorious. Eager.

Molly "I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him...then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down in to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. (END)".

After publishing Ulysses, Joyce began FINNEGANS WAKE (FW) - Joyce largely stepped out of one work into his next (and last work). The change Joyce made in FW was instead of using Homer's Ulysses as a framework - FW's framework is Giambattista Vico's "La Scienza Nuova's" 4 cyclic stages of history.

Joyce realized that he ended Ulysses wrongly (not in accordance with the Universe) in Molly's bed - Joyce corrects his mistake in FINNEGANS WAKE by incorporating Vico's revelation of restart / recirculation. FW starts in "book I ch 3" with HCE arrested in front of his tavern/home, like Bloom unable to enter his front door (but HCE does not enter his home through the back door) - instead HCE is arrested for disturbances in hours before dawn. Then "book I ch 4" HCE's conscious/awake or unconscious/dream psychological travails of past guilts (underworld coffin, Ulysses ch Hades) while incarcerated in early hours of morning. Followed by "book I ch 2" HCE walks home through Phoenix Park accosted for the time of day (12 noon) which threatens (real/unreal memories, Ulysses ch Nausicaa) his innocent well-being. These 3 chapters in FW are Joyce's major rework to incorporate Vico's revelation of restart / recirculation into FW - Joyce rewrites 3 chapters of Ulysses: When He is denied Her front door, He is in Hell (on earth), when released (from Hell) His odyssey to Her begins again (with His ever-present accompanying internal travails) for She always knows when He is worthy of Her acceptance (their Paradise).

Then "book I ch 1" Finnegan's afternoon wake at HCE's tavern. Inside HCE's tavern his patrons talk about his family, truthful (letters) and fabricated stories (book I:5-8 and book II:3); while the children (Shaun, Shem and Iseult) are in and out of the family tavern/home all day taking their lessons (book II:2) and playing about with their friends (book II:1); HCE, as proprietor, defends himself with a self-deprecating speech before his drunken collapse late night (book II:3). HCE dreams on his tavern floor (book II:4); then dreams in his bed (book III:1-3); before lovemaking with his wife ALP (book III:4). HCE & ALP's dissolution dream (book IV) to awaken to a new day, a supposition may be made that Joycean Nirvana is attained by HCE (via Dzogchen Trekchö) and ALP (via Dzogchen Tögal) - realizing the heart of enlightenment in the present moment, transcending all defilements and fixations (beyond all dualistic polarities) so that their rainbow bodies are realized, unification with the Unmanifest (creation, incarnate conception) and Reincarnation (the baton has been passed on again), awaiting Joyce's God "thunderclap" at the beginning of FW's "book I".

FW is aural (oral) history like Homer's Odessey and Celtic folktales - when one pronounces (phonology) FW's words (aloud) there are more languages than just English; also, when one reads (morphology) FW's words almost all the words are "portmanteaus / neologisms" which gives each of FW's "polysynthetic words" many meanings (impermanence, Heisenberg uncertainty), each FW sentence dozens of possible messages, each FW paragraph hundreds of possible readings, Joyce's rendering of a more expansive English language and multiplicating universal book with coalescing syncretic themes/stories (that responds to each reader's inquiries). Joyce schooled in Christian Jesuit metaphysics (pushed down into the mindfulness of human consciousness) breathes in the spirit of expansive Celtic (Irish) community tavern life where man's stories of life are told. Tavern life teaches the evolution of Joyce's ten God "thunderclaps" (one hundred lettered words) pushing man's evolution forward from cave man's tales to modern tv media tales. Inside the tavern man learns of the purely human (animal) fall, taken down by another human(s) - like animal taken down on the African savanna. A granular reading of FW can render FW as an updated John Milton's Paradise Lost (regurgitated knowledge from the tree, to affirm man's damnation); however, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was published in 1859 and Joyce in FW book II clearly walks Shaun, Shem and Iseult through their earthly evolutionary lifetime travails, our mortality is a consequence of Life's evolution. Every page of FW speaks to man's evolution and to Life recirculating (West meets Dzogchen East a "meeting of metaphysical minds") that binds humanity together into the future. Dzogchen (beyond all dualistic polarities) the heart of human consciousness - Joyce's underlying (subcutaneous) arguments refute the "Western curse of metaphysical/mythological damnation", the curse does not exist in the Eastern mind. Like "counting the number of angels on the head of a pin" (Aquinas 1270) Joyce provides a granular reading of FW as a "defense against all Western adversity" for our conscious and unconscious Western travails. HCE's angst is caused by his community that imposes a Western curse (damnation) upon him that man is not guilty of. To experience Joycean Nirvana, a defense against this man-made guilt is required - for as Zoroaster revealed cosmogonic dualism, evil is mixed with good in man's everyday (universal) travails (even the Dalai Lama must defend Nirvana rigorously from the most populous authoritarian state in human history).

Joyce's FW celebrates the (Joys of) Christian (Krishna, Shem) diversity of humanity (expansiveness of human consciousness, Gnostic Norwegian Captain, Archdruid), Brahma (Finnegan, HCE, Shaun, etc...), Divine Women (ALP, Iseult, etc...), his family - (and the Sufferings of) the inescapable "evil" of Shiva (Buckley), the debilitating harmful sterile authoritarian institutionalizing damnation (MaMaLuJo, St. Patrick) by Augustine, the manufactured clerical corruption identified by Luther (since 367 AD) and the burdens of "survival of the fittest" anxiety (modern commerce) met with a Dzogchen Buddhist stance. The (innocent infant) Norwegian Captain (Krishna, HCE), occasionally defensive (Shiva, HCE), though concretized (Brahma, HCE) by community family life (MaMaLuJo) - through spirits (drink) HCE can access his spirituality (dreams) and through spiritual (cutting through) love-making with ALP (direct approach) can access (their Krishnas) unification with the Unmanifest.

JCB
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on December 9, 2015
Joyce was 40 yrs old when Ulysses was published, it is a day in the life of a husband and father of Joyce's age (at publication). Joyce loved Dublin and Ireland and though the book was written on the European continent - he wanted to memorialize his birth home (Ireland). The framework of Ulysses is Homer's Odyssey - The Roman (Ulysses) is the translation of the Greek (Odyssey): 1 Telemachus, 2 Nestor, 3 Proteus, 4 Calypso, 5 Lotus Eaters, 6 Hades, 7 Aeolus, 8 Lestrygonians, 9 Scylla And Charybdis, 10 Wandering Rocks, 11 Sirens, 12 Cyclops, 13 Nausicca, 14 Oxen Of The Sun, 15 Circe, 16 Eumaeus, 17 Ithaca, and 18 Penelope.

Ulysses is the tale of a Modern-day Odysseus, Leopold Bloom in his personal existential/sexual quest. The conclusion of this quest is the quintessential affirmation of humanity, the fundamental family unit - the father, mother, son, and daughter. Like Odysseus, absent from Penelope, traveling the world, for many long years, Leopold Bloom is also absent from his Penelope (in Dublin). Like a traveler (Odysseus), Bloom is sexually absent (abstinent) from Molly '10 years, 5 months and 18 days' (736). Unlike Odysseus, the obstacles Bloom faces are psychological (modern) - internal travails instead of Odysseus' external travails. Bloom's only son's death has become a psychological barrier; as Molly reflects: 'we were never the same since' (778). Yet Bloom is optimistic throughout the work - in regard to the possibility of another child, again Molly: 'Ill give him one more chance' (780). Affirmatively (as we grow to know Molly) we find she has given and is willing to continue to give Bloom 'one more chance'. Through the course of the (Dublin) day, Bloom experiences 'deep frustration, humiliation, fear, punishment and catharsis' (Herring, p.74). Bloom needs to lead himself back, out of self-deception, fantasy, and frustration to Molly's (and his marriage) bed.

Bloom's travails come in the Circe chapter (Odyssey) and it is imperative (for Joyce) that as readers, we recognize Joyce's change from Homer's Odyssey - this is Joyce's major rework, deviating from his Greek predecessor. For Odysseus: insight, understanding, enlightenment, and all importantly direction come to Odysseus in his journey to the (ancient Greek) Underworld. For Bloom, the Hades chapter (Odyssey) or 'the other world' represents an 'emptiness of mind' (in Ulysses); Joyce was a man grounded (and devoted) to the present world of man's consciousness and unconsciousness. In Ulysses enlightenment comes in the Circe chapter, described though the Joycean technique of hallucination or the discoveries of the "unconscious mind'. Joyce's Circe chapter (a surrealistic one-act Ibsen-like play) is where Bloom finds self-possession - (Joyce makes) Bloom encounter his own psycho-sexual existential questions, rather than finding life's answers in the dead ghosts of his life (the ancient Greek Hades chapter of the dead past).

Joyce equanimously gives both Molly and Bloom extramarital sexual infidelities - infidelities known by each of the other. As early as the Calypso chapter (Odyssey), Bloom was conscious of what was to come. Of course there will be resolution in marriage, for Molly only needs to feel that Bloom is willing. As we read, Bloom has undergone the travails of his own mind and has emerged Victorious. He has succeeded in his psycho-sexual existential quest. He has arrived at Molly's bed. Self-possessed. Victorious. Eager.

Molly "I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him...then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down in to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. (END)".

After publishing Ulysses, Joyce began FINNEGANS WAKE (FW) - Joyce largely stepped out of one work into his next (and last work). The change Joyce made in FW was instead of using Homer's Ulysses as a framework - FW's framework is Giambattista Vico's "La Scienza Nuova's" 4 cyclic stages of history.

Joyce realized that he ended Ulysses wrongly (not in accordance with the Universe) in Molly's bed - Joyce corrects his mistake in FINNEGANS WAKE by incorporating Vico's revelation of restart / recirculation. FW starts in "book I ch 3" with HCE arrested in front of his tavern/home, like Bloom unable to enter his front door (but HCE does not enter his home through the back door) - instead HCE is arrested for disturbances in hours before dawn. Then "book I ch 4" HCE's conscious/awake or unconscious/dream psychological travails of past guilts (underworld coffin, Ulysses ch Hades) while incarcerated in early hours of morning. Followed by "book I ch 2" HCE walks home through Phoenix Park accosted for the time of day (12 noon) which threatens (real/unreal memories, Ulysses ch Nausicaa) his innocent well-being. These 3 chapters in FW are Joyce's major rework to incorporate Vico's revelation of restart / recirculation into FW - Joyce rewrites 3 chapters of Ulysses. Then "book I ch 1" Finnegan's afternoon wake at HCE's tavern. Inside HCE's tavern his patrons talk about his family, truthful (letters) and fabricated stories (book I:5-8 and book II:3); while the children (Shaun, Shem and Iseult) are in and out of the family tavern/home all day taking their lessons (book II:2) and playing about with their friends (book II:1); HCE, as proprietor, defends himself with a self-deprecating speech before his drunken collapse late night (book II:3). HCE dreams on his tavern floor (book II:4); then dreams in his bed (book III:1-3); before lovemaking with his wife ALP (book III:4). HCE & ALP's dissolution dream (book IV) to awaken to a new day, a supposition may be made that Joycean Nirvana is attained by HCE (via Dzogchen Trekchö) and ALP (via Dzogchen Tögal) - realizing the heart of enlightenment in the present moment, transcending all defilements and fixations (beyond all dualistic polarities) so that their rainbow bodies are realized, unification with the Unmanifest (creation, incarnate conception) and Reincarnation (the baton has been passed on again), awaiting Joyce's God "thunderclap" at the beginning of FW's "book I".

FW is aural (oral) history like Homer's Odessey and Celtic folktales - when one pronounces (phonology) FW's words (aloud) there are more languages than just English; also, when one reads (morphology) FW's words almost all the words are "portmanteaus / neologisms" which gives each of FW's "polysynthetic words" many meanings (impermanence, Heisenberg uncertainty), each FW sentence dozens of possible messages, each FW paragraph hundreds of possible readings, Joyce's rendering of a more expansive English language and multiplicating universal book with coalescing syncretic themes/stories (that responds to each reader's inquiries). Joyce schooled in Christian Jesuit metaphysics (pushed down into the mindfulness of human consciousness) breathes in the spirit of expansive Celtic (Irish) community tavern life where man's stories of life are told. Tavern life teaches the evolution of Joyce's ten God "thunderclaps" (one hundred lettered words) pushing man's evolution forward from cave man's tales to modern tv media tales. Inside the tavern man learns of the purely human (animal) fall, taken down by another human(s) - like animal taken down on the African savanna. A granular reading of FW can render FW as an updated John Milton's Paradise Lost (regurgitated knowledge from the tree, to affirm man's damnation); however, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was published in 1859 and Joyce in FW book II clearly walks Shaun, Shem and Iseult through their earthly evolutionary lifetime travails, our mortality is a consequence of Life's evolution. Every page of FW speaks to man's evolution and to Life recirculating (West meets Dzogchen East a "meeting of metaphysical minds") that binds humanity together into the future. Dzogchen (beyond all dualistic polarities) the heart of human consciousness - Joyce's underlying (subcutaneous) arguments refute the "Western curse of metaphysical/mythological damnation", the curse does not exist in the Eastern mind. Like "counting the number of angels on the head of a pin" (Aquinas 1270) Joyce provides a granular reading of FW as a "defense against all Western adversity" for our conscious and unconscious Western travails. HCE's angst is caused by his community that imposes a Western curse (damnation) upon him that man is not guilty of. To experience Joycean Nirvana, a defense against this man-made guilt is required - for as Zoroaster revealed cosmogonic dualism, evil is mixed with good in man's everyday (universal) travails (even the Dalai Lama must defend Nirvana rigorously from the most populous authoritarian state in human history).

Joyce's FW celebrates the (Joys of) Christian (Krishna, Shem) diversity of humanity (expansiveness of human consciousness, Gnostic Norwegian Captain, Archdruid), Brahma (Finnegan, HCE, Shaun, etc...), Divine Women (ALP, Iseult, etc...), his family - (and the Sufferings of) the inescapable "evil" of Shiva (Buckley), the debilitating harmful sterile authoritarian institutionalizing damnation (MaMaLuJo, St. Patrick) by Augustine, the manufactured clerical corruption identified by Luther (since 367 AD) and the burdens of "survival of the fittest" anxiety (modern commerce) met with a Dzogchen Buddhist stance. The (innocent infant) Norwegian Captain (Krishna, HCE), occasionally defensive (Shiva, HCE), though concretized (Brahma, HCE) by community family life (MaMaLuJo) - through spirits (drink) HCE can access his spirituality (dreams) and through spiritual (cutting through) love-making with ALP (direct approach) can access (their Krishnas) unification with the Unmanifest.

JCB
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on September 5, 2012
'Ulysses' is surrounded as much by controversy as brilliance. In his masterwork, Joyce moulds his theories on narrative, humanity, and philosophy into a complex view of Dublin at the turn of the Twentieth Century. It is a great book mired by difficulty. Many readers avoid 'Ulysses' because of its difficulty, which is unfortunate because these intricacies are highlights. Joyce ambitiously portrays the psychological worlds of his characters as they go about their day. That's what 'Ulysses' is: one long day that parallels Homer's 'Odyssey'.

My favourite part of this book was its impact on narratology. Joyce's core style has a third person omniscient narrator, but also slips into the subjectivity of characters through interior monologues. This was a huge moment for literature, because it shows a shift from the description of thought to thought itself. It gives the reader direct access to the characters. Joyce's movement between his heroes' thoughts and their exterior world illustrates how they relate to it. By choosing this kind of narrative, Joyce can demonstrate the ironies and multiple perspectives that surround Leopold Bloom's actions in the book. The primary feature of this book is parallax.

However, Joyce's revolutionary approach to writing also cripples it. Stephen Dedalus's dense monologues aside, Joyce simply does TOO MUCH. 'Ulysses' suffers in its final half from constant changes to the narrative. After the tenth episode, Joyce uses a new style each episode. So extreme is his ambition that he metaphorically "gives birth" to the English language in episode fourteen, "Oxen of the Sun." (My review's title uses the last sentence of that chapter.) I understand that Joyce uses different writing styles to present the effect they have on the text, but to what result? Some critics believe that Joyce's product justifies his method. While I respect this view, I also believe that literature requires clarity, which Joyce sacrifices for his boundless artistry.

As a book that celebrates the common man, 'Ulysses' operates on the irony that the status quo cannot understand all its treasures. I suspect this is part of Joyce's quirky sense of humour, and actually makes sense if you consider that irony. Despite the book's reputation, I recommend people to "try it on," and see what they take away. It is a heart-warming story, and very funny too, especially when Bloom and Stephen enter the brothel near the climax. Read 'Ulysses' for a laugh at what you know, and what you don't. If you enjoy it that much, then by all means study it to your heart's content.
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on August 13, 2011
Last month saw an article in the Guardian regarding some comments made by Gabriel Josipovici, former professor of comparative literature at Oxford University. The thrust of his argument was that the works of the current batch of lauded English novelists are the hollow works of 'prep-school boys showing off'. To quote him in full he said "Reading Barnes, like reading so many other English writers of his generation -- Martin Amis, McEwan -- leaves me feeling that I and the world have been made smaller and meaner. The irony which at first made one smile, the precision of language was at first so satisfying, the cynicism which at first was used only to puncture pretension, in the end come to seem like a terrible constriction, a fear of opening oneself up to the world'.

Josipovici argues that Lawrence Sterne is still far more avant garde than the current self-proclaimed avant garde are. 'An author like Salman Rushdie takes from Sterne all the tricks without recognising the darkness underneath. You feel Rushdie's just showing off rather than giving a sense of genuine exploration'. For all the knowledge of technique they produce books that follow established plot-lines and in the end leave us unaffected because at heart they really have nothing to say.

You can choose whether to agree with Josipovici and it probably wouldn't surprise you to hear that he has a book coming out and so would profit from some timely but controversial words however I will say that there is nothing around now that can challenge Joyce for his ingenuity or inventiveness. Take David Mitchell's much lauded 'Cloud Atlas' for instance, for all his quoting of Nietzsche, his episodic structure and his thin and ultimately trivial connections between the unconnected he cannot offer up the dish of intertextuality or inventiveness of the narrative form that takes place in Ulysses.

Joyce too was frustrated with the state of literature in Ireland at the time he wrote, so much so that it drove him to continental Europe, to Paris and Trieste. He left a country, the servant of two masters (England its colonial master and Italy, its spiritual master), a country trying to muster up some semblance of national pride with a rebirth of Celtic ideals; Joyce also saw the dangers of the new nationalism inspired by people like Yeats and Synge and these ideas are parodied throughout Ulysses.

It is interesting to note that in last years batch of books longlisted for the booker prize that there is no place for Amis or McEwan or Rushdie so perhaps Josipovici is correct but I will also bet you that within the Booker's dozen there will be no author who breaks ground like Joyce did and I think we are all the worse off for it.
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